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Physique Competitor Wannabe

Friends - first-time poster here:

Need some opinions: where (upper body) do I need the most work? Any favorite/creative lifts/exercises you’d recommend incorporating into my workouts for said bodyparts/muscle groups?

Going for a physique competitor look (think Steve Cook/Jeff Seid). For reference, pics were taken @ 8.6% bf (DEXA) after a 10.5-week cut.

I have some ideas but need unbiased opinions. Thanks in advance!


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Without a doubt–lats. They are way behind the rest of your physique development-wise.

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Thank you sir. Typically work back/bis once a week, workout looks something like this. Other than pull-ups, I usually go 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps.

Weighted pull-ups (varying grips, 10-45lbs, 4-6 sets)
Straight-arm pulldowns
Face Pulls
Incline DB curls
Bent over rows
EZ bar curls
One of: wide grip lat pulldowns, close (parallel) grip pulldowns, or slow assisted pull-ups (really squeezing the lats, to failure)

Feel like I work them equally hard, they just don’t grow. Have also always sucked at doing a lat spread or flexing them in general.

Think I should lift back once every 4-5 days? What other lifts would you suggest working in?

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Your biceps look great; no need to do anything differently with them. (In fact, I suspect they’ve been doing the bulk of the work on your lat exercises.)

The fact that you ‘suck’ at flexing/spreading your lats tells me you have a poor mind-muscle connection (MMC) with them. In my experience, MMC with the lats does not come naturally for most people–you have to work at it, to actively create it.

To facilitate lat MMC, consider starting your lat workout with single-arm work designed specifically for this purpose. Use a machine if possible (I prefer the Hammer Strength High Row). Use a really light weight–something you can get 20-30 times without difficulty. Limit your ROM to the fully-flexed portion (ie, your hand will be at your side the whole time). This next part is the key–take your free hand and put it on your working lat, and keep it there as you do the movement. The purpose of this is to physically feel the lat contract. (Don’t just palpate the upper aspect near your armpit; do some reps with your hand farther down the ‘wing’ of your lats.) As you proceed through a set, make slight adjustments to your posture, shoulder height, hip angle, etc, until you find the position that allows you to maximally contract your lat. Use your free hand as a guide to tell you when the lat is flexing hard. And once you’re positioned so that your lat is contracting maximally, transfer your mental focus from your free hand to the lat itself–that is, go from feeling the lat contract from the outside to feeling it contract from the inside.

So basically, your using your free hand as a guide to help your brain ‘find’ your lats.
(Remember, don’t worry about the weight–the whole point of the movement is to find your lats.)

Do three sets or so with each arm before moving on. Then, for the rest of your lat workout, do your best to carry that feeling forward–that is, use your newfound MMC to put your work-sets into your lats. Don’t be surprised if doing so necessitates dropping your working weights, perhaps substantially. This is very common–almost expected. So if necessary (and it likely will be) check your ego at the gym door, drop the weight, and make your lats do the work.


Thanks, @EyeDentist. Love the suggestion and will work it in.

If you don’t mind me asking, what are your staple exercises for back?

You’re welcome. My split is, I work everything once every 4 days. I alternate lat workouts, dividing them up into those that involve the biceps (I call these Pull lat exercises) and those that involve the triceps (Push lat exercises).

My Pull Lat day looks like this:
–3 sets of MMC-facilitating HS pulldowns as described above
–6 sets of wide-grip pulldowns. The ROM is limited to the middle 3/5 of the movement
–4 sets of single-arm seated machine rows (ROM = flexed 3/5), on this machine: http://img.medicalexpo.com/images_me/photo-m2/70274-9174929.jpg
–4 sets of neutral-grip pulldowns where I go deep into the stretched position, on this machine: http://cdn3.volusion.com/aqyor.dadrn/v/vspfiles/photos/cybexvr2latpu-2.jpg?1396863640

The next block I will do my Push Lat workout, which is:
–3 sets of MMC straight-arm pushdowns; ROM limited to the flexed (bottom) 1/5
–4 sets of single-arm pushdowns. (These differ from the first exercise in that they’re done with my hand off to the side, and the ROM is the middle 3/5)
–6 sets of machine pullovers, middle 3/5 ROM, on this machine: http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NTAwWDUwMA==/z/YosAAOSwBLlVAEEz/$_1.JPG
–4 sets of DB pullovers, Meadows style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfC0SwxAkho

Note that the basic workout setup is the same:
First, do an activation/MMC exercise;
Next, do several exercises where the muscle is worked hard through its middle ROM (I’ll perform an intensification technique–drop set, clusters, forced reps, etc–on at least one of the sets for these exercises); and
Finally, finish with a stretching exercise.

(no financial interest in any of the equipment or websites presented)